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Bicameral Group Presses FDA to Enforce Medication Abortion Restrictions During COVID-19 Outbreak

Rep. Latta, Sen. Hyde-Smith Lead Effort to Prevent Expansion of Mail-Order Abortions as Nation Toils to Reduce Coronavirus Deaths

Washington, April 14, 2020 | Rebecca Card (202.225.6405)

U.S. Representative Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today led a significant number of lawmakers from both chambers of Congress to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to resist efforts by pro-abortion activists to expand medication abortions during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Thirty-eight Senators and 121 Representatives sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, M.D., encouraging “robust enforcement” of the existing Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) applied to abortion drugs due to known or potential serious risk associated with these medications.  The COVID-19 outbreak has prompted abortion advocates to seek weakening or overturning the REMS to broaden access to mail-order or telemedicine abortions, which risks the health and safety of both women and babies.

“We write to urge you to continue to robustly enforce the REMS for medication abortion and end dangerous runarounds of these protections under the guise of medical research,” the lawmakers wrote.

“As you may know, the New York Times editorial board and others have called for making medication abortion more widely accessible with far less oversight – via an overturning of the REMS and an expansion of the stage of pregnancy at which Mifeprex may be prescribed.  These demands are both reckless and dangerous.  The FDA should stand confidently for the protection of women,” the letter states.

The lawmakers pointed to a series of reports indicating that Mifeprex, the first-step drug taken for a medication abortion, can cause five to seven percent of women to require follow-up surgery or emergency room care.  These situations are even more perilous in situations where women cannot access emergency medical care.

“While hospitals are being pushed to their limits because of the growing number of people severely ill as a result of COVID-19, we should minimize, not increase, unrelated pressures on our health care providers,” the lawmakers wrote. 

The lawmakers also encouraged FDA to conduct oversight into ongoing studies to dispense medication abortion to women remotely, which is a violation of the REMS.  The letter cites the Gynuity TelAbortion project launched in 2015 to test direct-to-consumer medication abortion by mail.  The Gynuity project has been extended continuously and now prescribes medication abortion in 13 states:  Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Washington.

“This study is transmuting into a national policy, without adequate evaluation or oversight,” the letter states.

The Susan B. Anthony List, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Right to Life, and the Concerned Women for America support the goals listed in the letter.

Last year, Latta and Hyde-Smith introduced companion legislation, the Support and Value Expectant (SAVE) Moms and Babies Act of 2019 (HR.4399/S.3072) to prevent labeling changes for already-approved abortion drugs; prevent providers from dispensing these drugs remotely, by mail, or via tele-medicine; and prevent FDA approval of new chemical abortion drugs.

The signed bicameral letter to Hahn is available here.

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